Messages from Ron

Reflecting on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and my Brief Theology on Race and Racism

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said in April of 1960 – “I think it is one of the tragedies of our nation, one of the shameful tragedies, that eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America.”

Since the early 90’s, the churches and ministries I oversee have been diligently working to tear down the dividing walls of division and hostility between people of different ethnicities. I often thank God for surrounding my life with people of color who have been sincere friends and co-laborers for decades. A few are pictured here, but there are countless others who have brought richness to my life through their cultural identity and their faith in Jesus.

In 1998, I preached a message called “The Reconciled Church” to our church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. This message became a turning point for our predominantly white congregation. 

A prominent black businessman happened to hear about this message and was shocked to hear this from a mostly white church. He purchased 200 copies of the message and shared them with city leaders. We quickly became known as a church that was intentional about reconciling blacks and whites. 25 years later, that congregation is now led by a black man and mirrors the demographics of the city hosting more than 75 ethnicities. There is no doubt our efforts are still needed in today’s racially charged environment. I hope you’ll take some time to listen to this message and dedicate your life to being a minister of reconciliation. 

 

The Reconciled Church

This sermon was delivered from the King’s Park pulpit, more than two decades ago, but remains relevant and critical today.  It set the tone for King’s Park to become a prominent voice for racial reconciliation in the church. The message itself was widely received throughout the Triangle and it became a catalyst for reconciling ethnicities, cultures and communities. May God bless you as you listen to this message.

Over the course of last year, our leadership team in New York City began an intentional journey to listen, understand and contend for unity and healing among God’s people. I deeply appreciate their commitment and empathy.

To underscore this commitment, I developed a “Brief Theology on Race and Racism,” with Scripture and historical context to help all of us have a greater understanding of the factors that shape “race” as we know it in American society and specifically the church. I invite you to join us in this journey by reading more here.

For all of this, we owe all credit to God and the historic role played by Dr. King and many others who fought the good fight of faith and paved a way for us to be the recipients of his “Dream.”

Thanks Dr. King!  I’m honored that King’s Park International Church is located in Durham adjacent to the Boulevard which bears your name. 

I love doing ministry with Pastor James Lowe from our sister church in Brentwood, TN. One of my favorite memories was taking him to China and watching him wash the feet of the seasoned Chinese house church leaders.

Dr. Pamela Rowsey is the godmother of my beautiful twin daughters. She earned her PhD from the University of Michigan, and became the first African American to receive tenure at the UNC School of Nursing.

After 20 years of doing ministry together I was honored to turn over local leadership of our RTP/Durham congregation to my friends, Pastor Reggie and Bomi Roberson, in September 2017.

I have been watching this dynamic evangelist since he was 19 years old become an amazing husband, father, and church planter of Second City Church: Pastor Rollan Fisher.

A close friend and one of our great pastors at Every Nation NYC, Shino Prater is a man of God.

In Durham, Manhattan and Los Angeles, my friend, George and his wife LaTondra, have made disciples and helped marriages; he is now an NFL Chaplain.

Dr. Nii Addy is doing extraordinary work as a Professor, Doctor and a believer in Christ. It’s been an honor to partner with him to help people get well and know God.

Dr. Ugo Iroku and his wife Tammy serve as elders and leaders in our Manhattan congregation.

A Biblical Conscience in the Voting Booth: Two D.C. Pastors Show Us How

It was my honor to host this brief interview with two extraordinary Christian leaders in the Washington D.C. region.
 
Brett Fuller and Donnell Jones are Lead Pastors of significant and diverse congregations. I believe you’ll find their deep insights on having a “biblical conscience” in regards to voting, extremely helpful. Like me, they know every election season can create stress and division both personally and in relating to others.
 
I hope this conversation challenges and encourages you regardless of your affiliation. Having no political agenda but God’s, helps each of us make room for peaceful, biblical and civil discussions.

    The Plight of the Uyghurs, Part 2

    On the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I invited several Christian leaders to speak about persecution through personal testimonies, professional reports and observations. These stories highlighted abuse and triumph. On my previous blog, you can watch that service at Every Nation Church NYC.

    The extraordinary panel spoke broadly of the perilous situation, as 245 million believers are living in areas that hurt, harass and harness believers. However, our speakers also spent significant time on the topic of religious freedom and the right to worship for all faiths. 

    Bill Clark, on the panel, is a scholar and activist for the Uyghur people group in the province of Xinjiang, in Northwest China. I admit, I was not acutely aware of the horrifying human rights violations this People Group is currently experiencing. As Bill shared his heart for the Uyghurs, I knew he cared about religious freedom, not just for Christians, but for everyone. I was appalled that this people group of 11 million is facing what can only be described as a present-day genocide. 

    On the eve of our event for the Persecuted Church, Bill and several of his Uyghur friends, came to Manhattan to discuss the realities in Xinjiang, where this atrocity is happening. What they shared has been a topic covered by the New York Times and others. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, described the suffering of the Uyghurs as, “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.” 


    Every Nation Church NYC held a dinner for several Uyghur scholars

    Uyghurs are indigenous to East Turkistan, which China occupied in 1949 and transformed into what they now call the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The Chinese government has systematically oppressed these people because they are Sunni Muslims and speak a language related to Turkish. As a result of uprisings in response to the increasing oppression of the government, they have been unjustly labeled as terrorists or religious extremists. In 2017 persecution towards this people group was ramped up by the Communist Party of China through a massive round-up of ordinary citizens into newly built reeducation camps. 

    “Everything that makes us unique has been treated as an abnormality,” said Dr. Rishat Abbas, one of our guests. Rishat, an Ohio State graduate, has been based in the U.S. for decades and works as a pharmacist. His father, a prominent Uyghur intellectual was Bill Clark’s mentor when he was in Xinjiang doing his Ph.D. research. Rishat’s sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas is one of the many individuals detained in a facility which the Communist Party is touting as reeducation centers.

    The stories I heard that night broke my heart. 

    According to Rishat and backed up by numerous documents and accounts from Uyghur eyewitnesses, these camps hold an estimated 1.8  million Uyghurs, approximately 10% to 20% of the Uyghur populace. Detainees are made to divest anything that makes them culturally and religiously unique. 

    They are tortured and forced to live a life that will align them with Chinese culture. They are forced to eat pork and act incompatible to their faith. They are made to learn the official standard language of China, Mandarin, and internalize Chinese propaganda by reciting songs and slogans. “Cultural genocide,” is how our Uyghur guests described it.  

    The Communist Party has rationalized the imprisonment of countless Uyghurs in these facilities, falsely claiming they are endangered by “harmful influence in religious extremism and violent terrorist thoughts.” But in fact, their only crime is being a Uyghur. 

    Our guests, who for the past two years have not talked to their loved ones for fear that the Chinese government will harm their families, exposed horrific policies forced on their people. 

    Making our hearts sink, even more, was finding out about “Chinese pairing” where Communist Party cadres stay at the homes of Uyghur families. Often, these “volunteers” sleep in the bedrooms of the families, where the man of the house—father and husband—are absent, detained in one of the camps. 

    There are also appalling reports of organs being harvested from Uyghurs and sold as “halal” organs to rich Arab clients in the Middle East

    These are horrifying issues that demand action, especially from those of us who declare the gospel and worship a God whose very Name is the definition of love. 

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed. The suffering of the Uyghurs is as significant, relevant and urgent as the problems in our very own communities.

    “We are very upfront about being followers of Jesus,” Bill told us that night. “Jesus told us to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself.” 

    At this very moment, millions of our neighbors need our help and we have a God-given mandate to stand with them both in prayer and action. 

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    The Uyghur Humans Rights Policy Act of 2019 is a bill that directs various U.S. government bodies to prepare reports on China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim Turkic ethnic group. I encourage you to call the representative in your district to take action and support this critical legislation that will mandate transparency and create accountability from the Chinese government on how they treat the Uyghurs. Click here for the contact information of your congressman or congresswoman. 

    WHERE TO PLACE: Lindsay Maizland, with Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a great summary article on the Uyghurs. Reading this gives a good background.

    FOR More information visit the Uyghur Human Rights Project website.

    SOURCES: 

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html

    https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/campaign-11192019152349.html

    https://www.businessinsider.com/china-harvesting-organs-of-uighur-muslims-china-tribunal-tells-un-2019-9

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/17/china-is-harvesting-organs-from-detainees-uk-tribunal-concludes

    https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/649

    https://www.ned.org/defenders-of-human-and-religious-rights-in-china-to-receive-2019-democracy-award-on-30th-anniversary-of-tiananmen-massacre/

    https://bitterwinter.org/the-case-of-dr-gulshan-abbas-one-year-later/

    https://thediplomat.com/2019/03/even-chinas-model-uyghurs-arent-safe/

    The Plight of the Uyghurs and Persecuted Church Sunday

    According to Open Doors International, there are 245 million Christian believers worldwide who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. In the past year alone, more than 4,000 Christians have been murdered and 3,150 believers were detained (without trial), arrested, sentenced or imprisoned simply for professing their belief.

    This reality must lead us to ask, “Why should we care and what can we do?” We sought to answer these questions and more during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

    November 3, 2019 was designated a special day by a host of Christian Ministries. Through the partnership of Every Nation Church NYC and Jordan Lewis Missions, we hosted several extraordinary leaders who shared their experience with religious persecution. 

    Click here to see the presentation from the following leaders:

    • Wendy Wright: President of Christian Freedom International
    • Bob Fu: Imprisoned Christian, human rights activist, awarded many awards, including the prestigious NED by Congresswomen Pelosi.
    • Simon and Lydia Suh: Rescuer of hundreds of North Koreans.
    • Yesupadam Paidipamula: “Untouchable” from India, Christian apostle to India and 40 nations. 
    • Bill Clark: Expert and Advocate for the Uyghur people of China.

    Here’s the brief on what these distinguished guests had to say about the persecuted Christians worldwide.

    Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, shared how things in China have become more dangerous for believers. Bob described it as, “… a war against the faith, especially Christians, a war against children’s Sunday school and religious education, and a war against the rule of law.”  He and others call it, “the worst persecution since the end of the cultural revolution 40 years ago.” But Bob’s faith, as always, is unwavering. “On the other hand, there is hope… knowing that according to God’s plan, even the persecutors would serve as the servants of the Lord.”

    Wendy Wright, formerly the president of Christian Freedom International, an organization that works in 10 nations, provides encouragement and tangible support to Christians suffering persecution. She encouraged all to pray for persecuted Christians, that they be strengthened in their faith in Jesus Christ. She also urged us to advocate for their welfare through our government leaders.

    Bill Clark challenged us to pray for and support the Uyghurs, a beautiful people group of mostly Sunni Muslims. Bill was accompanied by new friends to our services; Uyghurs academics, researchers and PhD scientists, who are passionately informing the world about the plight of their people back in China. 

    To our shock, millions of Uyghurs are being watched closely by a police state in China’s Xinjiang Province. They are stripped of their rights to live out their culture, faith and any other practices that make them a unique and distinctive people group. Bill brought to light this issue that’s not getting much media attention until recently — forced incarceration of 1-3 million Uyghurs living in reeducation-concentration camps where they are brainwashed and tortured, simply for being Uyghurs and Muslims. Bill challenged our congregations to stand up for our fellow Uyghurs. He mentioned the Good Samaritan, and how we are to reply to Jesus’ provoking question, “Who is our neighbor?” Bill also asked, “how can we show compassion?” 

    Christians must speak against injustice committed to anyone. The detailed story of the Uyghurs will be on my next blog post. This is an issue for everyone everywhere.

    Yesupadam committed his life to Christ at the age of 23. When he was a young untouchable, 11 years old,  the lowest of the Indian caste system, he fainted on the roadside due to starvation. Because of his social class, he was ignored and left as dead. Remarkably, a Christian missionary from Canada who was driving his family in a jeep, saw him on the roadside, picked him up and drove him to the nearest hospital.  The humble Canadian missionaries cared for him, and paid his bills for the next two weeks. Thanks to them, Yesupadam was not only saved physically, but heard the gospel and was saved eternally. The name, Yesupadam, which means “Jesus’ foot,” has manifested through his life for decades.

    “It’s been difficult being untouchable,” Yesupadam shared. “But I had an amazing encounter with Jesus.” Now, Yesupadam is facing a different persecution as he’s ministering in a nation that has become increasingly hostile toward Christianity and other religions. Nevertheless, nothing stops him from loving and caring for so many in a nation of more than 1 billion. 

    Yesupadam, has advanced God’s kingdom of love all over his nation through planting thousands of congregations, building orphanages, hospitals and a plethora of Love-n-Care Ministry Centers across his nation. Love-n-Care, his ministry, has planted hundreds of churches in southeastern India, trained more than 2,000 ministers and blessed countless impoverished children, disabled young adults, the elderly and more around the world. The genesis of his powerful story could be traced to an act of a Good Samaritan. His life story has been captured in his biography by Terri Whitaker: Yesupadam, Reaching India’s Untouched.

    Working in the darkest, most dangerous nation in the world, Simon Suh’s ministry has rescued hundreds of North Koreans out of the hermit kingdom. Along with starting churches, the rescue operations were extremely dangerous. In North Korea, persecution is severe, most likely the worst in the world. Sharing the gospel or even owning Bibles are capital offenses. 

    Remarkably, the woman Simon would eventually marry, was one of the relatively few who found a way out. “By God’s miracle, she escaped,” Simon said. With the help of Simon’s ministry, she was able to rescue her brother and her mother out of the peril of North Korea. Though they have painful stories, they are safe and working for the glory of God. Lydia now owns a design shop where she makes extraordinary clothing for people from all walks of life, including celebrities and professional athletic teams.

    In our journey of faith, the Word of God assures us of a finish line filled with celebration, one where the Gospel wins, the nation’s become God’s and Christ alone is exalted. Until then, many of our fellow believers live in perilous times as they are tested, tried and refined by fire.

    As Rev. 12:11 proclaims, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

    Our hopes and prayers are that the faith of the persecuted faithful continue to inspire us to be fearless, steadfast and more devoted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. May we always remember to pray for and stand with them until that glorious finish. 


    The Reality and Evidence of the Resurrection

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single event upon which the truth of Christianity hangs. This resurrection is historical, but also deeply personal. For 30 years, especially on Easter Sundays, I have preached on the truth of that awesome event and how anyone can be changed forever. Recently I have been overwhelmed by the evidence of this historically verifiable fact and personally that God’s Son loves me enough to die and rise again to rescue me from my sin and shame. Join me as we walk through the power and reality of the resurrection: May it be as real to you today as it was to the disciples 2,000 years ago!

    The image above is the photographic negative of the face on the Shroud of Turin. Normally, image inversion places the shadows in the wrong spots on the photographic negative, but with the shroud face, it places them in the right spots. This in and of itself is inexplicable and some say, miraculous. Additionally, you can see the blood stains from the crown of thorns wounds, the outdent of the phylactery in the middle of the forehead, the swollen cheek, the dislocated nose, and the part of the beard that was pulled out. Mary and Dr. Alan Whanger (Medical Doctor and retired Professor at Duke University) and Dr. Tom D’Muhala (Nuclear Physicist and original member of the STURP/1978) have educated me on the veracity of the Shroud, that it’s neither a myth or forgery, but belonged to Jesus of Nazareth. I mention this in the message without making this the focus.